New art tour for PE

Mantis opens the treasure chest of No5 boutique art hotel and the 2010 villa to the public

PREMIUM

Andy Warhol, William Kentridge, Sam Nhlengethwa, Maureen Quin, Duncan Stewart, Anton Momberg, Louis Jansen van Vuuren and Hanneke Benade are names which you more often find on the walls of national, and even international art galleries.
However, Nelson Mandela Bay businessman Adrian Gardiner – a long-standing patron of the arts in this city – has over the years had pieces by these artists and many other significant names on display at the Mantis Collection’s No 5 boutique art hotel in Summerstrand.
Until now, only visitors to the five-star hotel could view the extensive Mantis collection of more than 200 pieces, but this week saw the introduction of an new art tour open to the public.
PE artist Stewart introduced the first tour on Tuesday with guide Grettel Osorio taking a group of invited guests round the two properties in Brighton Drive, namely the main hotel No5 and its sister villa, dubbed 2010, across the road.
“It’s a treasure chest with gifts for the eye, intellect and soul,” Stewart said, outlining the importance of creativity and how “art can take us viewers on a journey ... and help us to navigate the world”.
Even a cursory walk through reveals contemporary gems worth several million rands and you would have to be visually illiterate not to notice how art permeates every space.
NMU art student Osorio acted as tour guide, giving charming pen-sketches of the work while Mantis events and special projects co-ordinator Tracy Degoumois – whose brainchild the tour is – joined the dots with anecdotes and tidbits such as the name of Quin’s bronze model.
One of the diamonds in the collection must be the first piece you see when you walk in: the pen and ink collage Wittgenstein’s Rhinoceros by William Kentridge.
This valuable artwork is safely behind glass, as it should be, and it helps to have Osorio explain the title which refers to a discussion about mathematics between philosophers Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein.
It is a magnificent starting piece to the tour as it brings top of mind the current fragility of the rhino due to poaching.
The “problem of the rhinoceros” is no longer a pure maths question but an environmental issue as well and as the founder Shamwari Game Reserve – formerly in the Mantis portfolio – Gardiner must surely prize this particular piece.
Modern married with old
The choice of modern art marries surprisingly well with older art deco pieces such as matched porcelain dolls, curvacious smoked glass vases and polished chests of drawers.
Everywhere you look there are tasteful tableaux with furniture and lighting either designed or placed with a coherent look in sight.
One of the most interesting pieces is a glass platter by the late American pop artist Warhol but it’s the South African art which has rich stories to tell.
There are several thought-provoking collages on the walls of the lounge, for example, which the now infamous Zwelethu Mthethwa (he is serving a jail term for murder) painted with Van Vuuren.
Their joint works juxtapose poverty and privilege and cast a sly social commentary over guests as they relax on the plump sofas.
Then there is the poignant suitcase in the wine cellar, part of a work called Nowhere To Go by Jan van der Merwe. Made of rusted metal, it tells a story of displacement, which Osorio can further explain to visitors.
In the suites at No5, guests sleep with photographer Obie Oberholzer’s searing travelscapes looming over their beds, while across the road the soccer scenes of the 2010 Fifa World Cup give a totally different flavour.
Several of Port Elizabeth’s more celebrated artists also have work on display and, Stewart in particular, has been a favourite with the 2010 villa containing only his works.
You can view giant fussball players livening up the pool area, for example, and a bronze sculpture of a sleeping street-child tugs at the heartstrings. Apparently, the well-heeled visitors who stay here often ask how they can contribute to the need they see portrayed, a compliment to Stewart’s vision that art can move the soul.
Keen visual eye
The No5 collection is eclectic but has been drawn together by someone with a keen visual eye and its hands-on owner reportedly even chose the paint colours for the walls of the hotel.
Gardiner’s love of South African art dates back to the 1980s and while his collection is not on the scale of the wealthy benefactors behind Zeitz Mocaa or the Norval Foundation in Cape Town it is indeed as Stewart noted on Tuesday, a “treasure chest”.
“We began collecting art over 30 years ago and the early days of our art collection were relative to the history of Africa,” Gardiner said. “We have one of the biggest collections of art portraying Nelson Mandela Bay.”
The tour costs R350 and includes lunch and a welcome drink...

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